President Obama has targeted special assistance given to rural hospitals in his plan to reduce the deficit. The White House plan would save $6 billion over ten years by trimming Medicare funding to “critical access hospitals” in rural communities. (Five states don’t have these hospitals: Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.)
(Here is a list of the 100 critical access hospitals that ranked highest on a “Hospital Strength Index” devised by the National Rural Health association.)
The National Rural Hospital Association has said these cuts would devastate rural hospitals, which have poorer patients and less opportunity to earn other income than urban facilities. CQ says rural hospitals are “gearing up for a fight” to preserve the Medicare payments. (The CQ story is gated.)
• Coal stocks were soaring — until they collapsed.
The Wall Street Journal yesterday wrote about the “precipitous drop” in the share price of U.S. coal producers. Arch Coal dropped 9% Monday alone.
• Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia won a special election yesterday, fending off a $3.4 million attack from a national Republican organization and defeating Republican Bill Maloney by three percentage points.
“We may be open for business, but ladies and gentlemen, West Virginia is not for sale,” Tomblin said at his victory celebration.
Tomblin is a state legislator from rural Logan County and ran as a conservative Democrat. He assumed office after Gov. Joe Manchin stepped down to become a U.S. Senator. Tomblin received endorsements from every major group in the state.
• You know it’s a drought in Texas when there’s not enough water for the football field.
The L.A. Times goes to Robert Lee, in West Texas, where the football field is dying. The school has been paying for water delivery to the field by truck (at a cost of $200, three times a week), but that wasn’t enough. They put down seed, but it was too hot to germinate.
• The armadillo is headed north.
The armored mammal came to Texas in the 1880s, to Florida in the 1920s and has been ambling north as the climate warms. It could soon be in Washington, D.C.
• Monsanto beat Wall Street expectations for its fourth-quarter earnings, but there’s still trouble for the seed and ag chemical producer.
The federal Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into incentives Monsanto paid dealers selling the company’s Roundup herbicide. The inquiry will cause Monsanto to restate its earnings for the past two years, likely reducing its net income.
• The Obama administration will speed up permitting and construction of electric transmission lines in 12 states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The aim is to modernize the electric grid and to allow electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, to reach users.
Rural landowners will have to deal with the new lines as they cross their property. The Wilderness Society, however, favored the building. “Building responsibly sited power lines to access world-class renewable resources can put thousands of Americans to work, bring cost-effective clean power to people who need it, and help some of the rural counties in the West hardest hit by the economic downturn,” said a Wilderness Society vice president.